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Poppies by Mary Oliver

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Of course it had to be a big, black sea, and of course I didn’t know how to swim. It was the pending inevitable. Of course it had to happen in media res—there I was, with my life, with all my plans—and suddenly I was drowning. As if I was all my life walking backwards and didn’t know that I was at the edge until I had slipped and fallen.

I suppose it was a form of dying, those last few months. We all die a little each day, I know. But all those days—I wanted to be there, in the deep wave, in the drowning where no light comes.

But light did come.

Poppies
Mary Oliver

The poppies send up their
orange flares; swaying
in the wind, their congregations
are a levitation

of bright dust, of thin
and lacy leaves.
There isn’t a place
in this world that doesn’t

sooner or later drown
in the indigos of darkness,
but now, for a while,
the roughage

shines like a miracle
as it floats above everything
with its yellow hair.
Of course nothing stops the cold,

black, curved blade
from hooking forward—
of course
loss is the great lesson.

But I also say this: that light
is an invitation
to happiness,
and that happiness,

when it’s done right,
is a kind of holiness,
palpable and redemptive.
Inside the bright fields,

touched by their rough and spongy gold,
I am washed and washed
in the river
of earthly delight—

and what are you going to do—
what can you do
about it—
deep, blue night?

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